Through Bullard Brook Hill’s rigorous non-district slate, running back Gunnar Dorsey’s numbers were modest: 74.2 yards per game, 5.1 yards per carry and a pair of touchdowns.
Since then, the senior has exploded, averaging 143.1 yards per game at 13.2 yards per carry and scoring 18 touchdowns in the last eight games.
Dorsey’s growth as a runner has in part come down to his strength after initial contact, something he’s improved upon as the season progressed.
“I definitely think that he’s gotten a lot better, that when first contact happens he keeps the pile moving,” Guard coach Terry Pirtle said. “He’s a strong kid. The last four games especially he’s learned how to use his big body to keep going and keep generating yards after contact.”
That big body stands at 6-3, 235 pounds, which is easily larger than his all-state defensive lineman teammate Grady Dennis, who is 5-10, 200 pounds.
Dorsey is capable of running over and through would-be tacklers and has done so more effectively since district play began. He now has 1,516 yards on the season.
Against TAPPS Div. III-District 2 foes, Dorsey ran for 738 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 16.4 yards per touch. His best game came against Dallas Shelton when he racked up 212 yards and four touchdowns on nine carries.
“I feel like I’ve improved on that throughout the season,” Dorsey said of yards after contact. “It’s a pretty big advantage to be able to use my size.”
In the playoffs, Dorsey has nine touchdowns in three games, eclipsing the century mark rushing each time.
“Dorsey has really stepped up his running ability,” Pirtle said. “He’s getting better and better as he goes. He’s running with a lot more confidence and he’s not getting tackled on that first contact.”
With Dorsey becoming a work-horse running back, the Guard offense has thrived for a number of reasons. For starters, Pirtle appreciates the extra yardage when calling plays.
“Any time you go from a second-and-8 to a second-and-5, as a play caller it’s a huge difference,” Pirtle said. “Those one or two more yards that he’s getting for us right now are big when we’re trying to get first downs and run the football.”
Additionally, Dorsey’s running has helped quarterback Will Weathers avoid being sacked this season.
“Any time you don’t give up a sack all year long, that’s a testament that they’re respecting your run game,” Pirtle said. “The offensive line has done a tremendous job this year.”
Brook Hill began emphasizing the run after all-state receiver Travis Pirtle went down with a dislocated ankle and broken leg in the opening round of the playoffs. Third-best receiver Garrett Moore also strained his MCL in that game, though he’ll return for the state final on Saturday.
The Guard have favored the run on 76 percent of plays in the playoffs since two of their top three receivers were hurt, though windy weather played a factor in that number. Before the playoffs, Brook Hill ran the ball 40 percent of the time.
“We put an emphasis on the run game because we lost Travis and we were just going to see how it all worked,” Dorsey said. “Then it worked, so we kept doing it.”
Note: Bullard Brook Hill (10-3) plays Austin Regents (9-4) in the TAPPS Division III state championship on Saturday in Killeen. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. from Leo Buckley Stadium in a rematch of last year’s final, won 38-7 by the Knights.